ON SOUNDS AND DEALING WITH UNWANTED NOISE
Maggie H is a Global Explorer and Wellness Advocate from Hong Kong. Among many spiritual endeavors, Maggie practices and leads Qigong meditation to help people around the world find their inner balance. Find out more about this and other Eastern Philosophy & Meditation practices every Monday on the ICBRKR blog.
My old friend T had very sensitive ears and, as a result, was quite sensitive to noise pollution. But T's other senses were equally sensitive, too. It seemed like T's entire body was not meant for city life — especially not for a hot, humid, tightly spaced and noisy city like Hong Kong.
Every time T moved to a supposedly quiet flat, one of the neighbours would start a major renovation soon afterwards. It usually began with demolition work that involved hammering and drilling for weeks. One time, a group of party animals moved into a flat right above T's apartment. When they moved out, T hoped for a peaceful short break, but then the Water Department sent crew members to work on the pipelines in front of the building, which required extensive drilling. Once, T moved to a peaceful flat and ecstatically informed me that it was completely noise-free. But less than a month later, T's entire building began to undergo a complete renovation, which took almost two years.
Thus, T has been living in the heart of Hong Kong for over 20 years, all while playing a perverted game of hide-and-seek with her fate.
In Hong Kong, you need to get accustomed to the general loudness of everything. Conversations sound more like shouting, even in the elevators. Popular Hong Kong restaurants are filled with people talking and laughing, servers shouting orders dishing emergency landings of flying plates and bowls on the table. Don't expect the usual politeness of putting things down quietly here. This is because people have more important things to focus on — enjoying great food available in every price range, rushing back to work, and making more money!
Regardless of the world's economy, something is constantly being built and demolished in Hong Kong, whether it's commercial or residential. Hence, endless construction noises of buildings and roads are prevalent there.
When in a taxi, the driver will most likely play a local radio station and loudly chat on his walkie-talkie at the same time. The volume stays on high no matter what happens in the back seat. If, by chance, there is a traffic jam, drivers won't hesitate to honk until it gets cleared.
Coincidentally, people here are very tolerant to noise, including noise generated when neighbours host parties. Typically, if someone calls the cops for a noise complaint in the middle of the night, chances are they're either not local or they have not lived here for a long time.
These days, most of us live in densely populated cities like Hong Kong and our flats are stacked on top of one another. Thus, unwanted noise is unavoidable. That being said, the interesting thing about sounds is that sometimes, it disappears.
Let's imagine you are waiting for a person on whom you have a major crush at a cafe. Until that person's arrival, you cannot help but overhear the private conversations at the next table along with other sounds and perhaps some music. However, once your crush arrives and you start your own conversation, the rest of the sounds in the cafe disappear, and it seems as if only you and your crush are present. In this moment, you completely fail to register that the people at the next table might have overheard your own private conversations.
In oriental medicine, extreme sensitivity to sounds or ringing in the ears is believed to be caused by the weak Water Element in the body. The organs of the Water Element are located in the lower belly, which is also known as Dantien (丹田), such as the kidneys, bladder, uterus and the prostate gland. So when your lower belly is filled with energy, you would become gutsy and, subsequently, you would be able to handle things with more patience and wisdom. In that sense, living in a city like Hong Kong requires a lot of guts.
As I am writing this, a banging noise from the building construction site up on the street is entering into my room through my right window, while a drilling noise from down the street is echoing through my left window.
How should we manage noises like this around us on a daily basis?
It is impossible to selectively tune them out, so you might as well open your ears wide and invite all the noises in instead. It's helpful to play your own choice of music or sounds closer to you, and plant your awareness firmly in the lower belly to get immersed in your task or work. Imagine you are sitting across the table with your crush at a noisy cafe; soon enough, you won't notice the noise at all.
Maggie H is a Life Cartographer, Eastern philosopher, Qigong master, Buddhist and Taoist meditator, Feng Shui practitioner, and researcher of Buddhist scriptures. She lives in Hong Kong, and regularly travels to both India and South Korea to further her spiritual growth and development. Her lifelong motto is: "benefit to all humankind."